When was the last time you sat on the floor?
As a child I was forever connected to the earth. I hardly ever sat in a chair but lolled contentedly on the garish carpet of our living rooms at every opportunity. I played at ground level for hours enjoying the worm’s eye view it gave me as all around me towered up to the ceiling.
I read on the floor, I organised battles for ranks of plastic soldiers, held car races on the cold, hard linoleum of the kitchen and watched television from below the horizon. I especially enjoyed the perspective from the bottom to the top of the stairs in our hallway, it seemed an insurmountable climb and I relished the effort as I negotiated the stair rodded axminster one step at a time on my knees. I tugged myself up, making it hard for myself so I could enjoy the feeling of triumph when I reached the top and looked down from the giddying height.
When the weather was good I loved to lie on the grass. The connection to nature was immediate and profound. You were instantly aware of the tiny damp jungle that teemed with ants and beetles - a whole microcosmic world on another level that I found endlessly fascinating. Maybe I was a strange kid but I would sometimes lie on the grass with my head under a bush looking up and through the dapple to the sky.
In the hot summers of youth I would sit on the kerb of my street and dig into the sticky sun softened tar with a discarded lollipop stick. I’d set deadly traps for unwary ants as they passed on their way to their climactic flying ant day at the end of July. I imagine those little bodies are still there, entombed for eternity in their black stuff kismet.
My friend had the holy of holies for small boys, a sand pit his father had dug into the small lawn at the top of their garden. We spent ages playing there oblivious to the copious cat shit. I was excited by the idea of being below the grass, minutely examining the stratae at the edge of the lawn with roots clutching the crumbling worm laden earth, giving way to impacted clay-like soil before the sand began.
As I aged and hips, knees and elbows grew less limber I left the floor and gravitated to chairs and lost something of my self along the way. I forget now who said it, Billy Connolly perhaps, but I recognise the sentiment that you know when you are older when you bend down with effort to tie your shoelaces and wonder if there is anything else you can do while you’re down there.
Now, the only time I spend on the floor is if I am ever required to fit tiles, assemble some flat packed furniture or some other DIY torture. I suffer for a couple of days afterwards with a swollen knee from a weakness I still carry from an injury in my teens.
I engage with the earth while gardening of course, though a long hoe does more of the weeding each season than the hand held trowel I used to employ. I still love the honesty of soil, rich and chocolate cakey where I’ve layered in home made compost for years, the loamy smell is as satisfying and comforting as the complex soft, gritty feel of it in your fist.
The beach is the only other place I now deign to lower myself to sea level and, after a hiatus of some years when the kids were small and tended to get easily encrusted, I have rediscovered a liking for lying on the sand. It is enormously relaxing to shuffle yourself into a comfortable shape on a sandy beach and soak in the sun as it warms all around you.
Now that I’ve thought about it I feel a strong urge to return to ground level when I next get the chance. If you ever visit me at home and find me lying face up under a bush, don’t rush to call an ambulance, just check first for a beatific smile on my dappled face.